You can’t change the Markets, so Change Yourself

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One of my regular bike rides include a pretty good-sized hill. Initially I had to psyche myself up for that hill, preparing mentally in case I needed to de-couple my shoe cleats quickly and walk to the top. It can get ugly if you are on a steep hill and your forward motion stops with your feet still attached to the pedals. I remember well those challenging rides, gasping for air as I struggled to get to the top of that hill, muscles burning as I climbed.
 
As I approached that once dreaded hill this week, I had my music playing as I thought about some of the things I would need to do when I got into work. I wasn’t paying particular attention to the hill, my body going through the motions pretty automatically including the occasional downshifting, normal to hill climbing. As I rounded the top and headed off on the flat road that followed, I passed a man standing on the roadside, straddling his bike. He was huffing, puffing and sweating profusely as if he had just finished a marathon. As I passed by he said between breaths, “That hill is a killer.”
 
Suddenly I was reminded of my first attempts at that hill, with a similar outcome, yet on this particular day I had hardly even noticed climbing it. My legs did not burn and my breath was only slightly elevated. As I pondered his words I realized that it isn’t the hill that kills you, but your lack of preparation for climbing it. In all my rides the hill has not changed, but I have.
 
Investors know that the ups and downs of economic cycles come with the territory. Like a good bike ride, the lifetime investing experience will include many types of terrain. Sometimes the ride is smooth and easy allowing you to coast along with hardly a care. Other times the hill seems steep and long and you find yourself gasping for air as you try to reach the top. There are rocks in the road, flat tires that slow you down, and even other people along the way that sometimes force you to alter your course. In the end, the message is the same. It isn’t the hills or the obstacles, but your lack of preparation for dealing with them that ruins your day.
 
In every economic setback there are at least two types of people; Those who are financially prepared for a steep hill, and those who are not. The former, climb the hill with little effort and often are able to take advantage of the opportunity. The latter find themselves huffing and puffing and praying they don’t die before reaching the top.
 
Economic times are very good right now. Do not squander this opportunity to get your finances in shape so you will be prepared to climb that steep hill that is most certainly ahead on the road.